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Man's Best Friend

Contributed by David Verne

Since before recorded history, dogs have been at the side of mankind, and it turns out that the ancient Romans treated them almost identically to how we do now. The modern breeds that we are familiar with didn't exist 2,000 years ago, but the same categories existed ie. hunting dogs, herding dogs, lap dogs, etc. The process people went through when getting a dog was the exact same as now. The first step would be picking a name, with the Greek historian Xenophon writing that the best names were short so the dog could be easily called. The dog would then be house trained and would learn the basic commands such as sit, stay, come, etc. Training guides from the era recommend that the dog should be rewarded through food and praise, and that you should pet them, caress their head, and speak a hearty word.

People got attached to their pets just as much as we do, and there are many examples of tombs and epitaphs for dogs. A few include, "I am in tears while carrying you to your last resting place. As much as I rejoiced when bringing you home in my own hands fifteen years ago", "Myia never barked without reason, but now he is silent", and "You who pass by, if you see this monument, laugh not, I pray, though it is a dog's grave. Tears fell for me, and dust was heaped above me by a master's hand."

My Take by David Verne
Sometimes the past can seem so distant and the people so foreign, that it can be hard to feel a connection with our ancestors. I feel a kinship with the people who wrote those epitaphs for their deceased pets because I have felt that way when I lost a dog several years ago. It seems that one constant through history is how we treat dogs, and it is through common experiences like this that we can understand people around the world and far into the past.

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